Debbie Rissing's blog

Dogs, Frogs and a Pink Moon

SumaSuma, the dog we rescued from the street early on New Year's Day, has a new sister, "Wawita!" The name is Aymara for "Baby." Suma's a whole lot bigger than when we found her. And mercifully, she ditched puppyhood when we bought Wawita. The little one was frisking around outside a hostel we walk by on our way to and from the market. We asked if she was for sale and learned that, yes, we could buy her for 40 Bolivianos.

New Puppy, A Flood, and Undies

Suma - our new puppyAt last: We have a puppy! We found her shivering in the street at 12:45 a.m., New Years Day. So we named her Suma, which is Aymara for “Happy,” as in Happy New Year. She likes a dry house, a warm lap, puppy chow, and ... chewing everything!

Alas, last night, a dry house was not to be had. Torrential rains and three inches of hail pelted down for more than an hour. The din was so loud we had to shout to hear each other. Then the floor drains in the kitchen, powder room and bathroom simultaneously started gushing muddy water. Two good things about that: it wasn’t sewerage; and after lots of squeegeeing and mopping, our floors are now spotless! Hooray!

Suma Machaqa Mara!

At the meat marketThat's Aymara for Happy New Year! Today, New Year's Eve, the streets in Copacabana are chock full of people buying and selling in anticipation of a whole lot of celebrating. One of our favorite meat vendors, Marta, told us "Here everyone eats pork (cerdo) on New Year's Eve." Indeed, every butcher shop is displaying still-hairy pig heads and whole, split-bellied pigs piled five or six deep. So guess what we are having tonight...

Holiday Homecoming

Dear Family and Friends:

It’s hard to believe we’ll be back in the Midwest in two days! We’re eager to see family and friends, worried about the cost of living in the U.S. for five weeks, and a little stressed to leave our Copa home and our work here.

Face to face with Evo and a bloqueo in 24 hours


I’d just finished teaching my Saturday English class when our local pastor, Juan Paz, surprised Jeff and me with an invitation to the 100th anniversary of the Instituto Americano, a very prestigious Methodist K-to-12 school, in Cochabamba.

It was clearly a “you-must-come” kind of invitation. The Bolivian Bishop, Javier Rojas, would officiate. And Bolivian President Evo Morales, a close pal of the bishop’s, might make an appearance! So we said Sure, we’d be delighted to attend.


Copacabana Cathedral altarBless the local vendors, who are patient with our rough Spanish. We teach them a little English. They love teaching us Aymara, the local indigenous language. We all laugh.

Two weeks ago, two of our favorite vendors, Roxana and Hugo, who live in a small apartment behind their tiny-but-packed-to-the-ceiling house wares shop, surprised us with a visit to our house. (Dang it: I had just stepped out of the shower, wrapped in a towel! I sorted myself out and joined them and Jeff.)

They surprised us again: Would we serve as godparents to their two teenagers?

In Latin America, this is a serious request -- and a hefty obligation for godparents. Roxana and Hugo said they want their kids to have “a second set of parents” to model the value of an education, hard work, and resourcefulness; to demonstrate a virtuous life; and to lead Katarina and Franzua toward a better life.


We said Yes.

Getting Fleeced

I couldn’t help thinking of the nursery rhyme, “Bah, bah, black sheep,” as we shopped last week for sheep, alpaca and llama fleeces. Instead of three bags full, we bought nine whole alpaca fleeces and two complete sheep skins – for a total of about $40 USD.

It’s shearing time here. Once a year, farmers shear their wooly animals, and take the bales of fleece to a huge market at Kasani, a small border town that straddles Peru and Bolivia. We could have walked the 8 kilometers (about 4 miles) from our home, but because of the massive crowds and the bulky wool, we took a minibus both ways – for about 60 cents roundtrip!

'Even if I could afford nutritious food...'

'Even if I could afford nutritious food, I only know how to cook corn, rice and potatoes

From the High Andean Lake Titicaca region of western Bolivia and southern Peru: ¡Kamasaki! Aymara, the local indigenous language, for hello, how are you.

We survived the Andean winter (here, that’s June through August). We are fully settled into our home, and we’re ready for volunteers and mission teams. As site hosts and coordinators of the Lake Titicaca Border Mission, the people here need your help … This is the poorest region in Bolivia, which is the poorest nation in South America. Most indigenous people here survive on less than $2 a day, growing corn and potatoes. A few can afford to buy rice and pasta -- more carbs. But virtually no one can afford an adequate balance of fruit, vegetables and protein. In Manko Kapac, about a 30-minute walk from our home, a woman in her mid-20’s told us, “Even if I could afford (vegetables and protein), I only know how to cook corn, rice, and potatoes.”

Nuevo Año 5519

Hola and Felice Ano Nuevo!


Hello and Happy New Year from Bolivia!


Tuesday, June 21, we and many thousands of Aymara celebrated the Winter Solstice here, which also marks the start of a New Year for the Aymara – it’s the year 5,519.


Neighborhood Clean-Up Day

16 June, 2011

Hola y Bendiciones desde el Mision Fronteras a Lago Titicaca!

Hello and Blessings from the Border Mission at Lake Titicaca!


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